Chandigarh seems to be losing its sheen as a hub for information technology (IT) if the poor response of entrepreneurs to the UT administration's much-talked about initiative - entrepreneur development centre (EDC) - is any indication, despite there being best of facilities for setting up of their ventures.
The office space available at EDC comprises 19 bays covering around 20,189 sq feet area. Out of the 19 bays, as many as 11 are fully furnished and are reserved for young entrepreneurs (YE) while eight unfurnished bays have been earmarked for small and medium enterprises (SME).
The administration had invited applications for the allocation of space in the centre and the bids for the same were opened on January 9.
Equipped with plug-and-play facilities, bays meant for young entrepreneurs attracted a total of 10 entrepreneurs while there were no takers for eight bays reserved for SME.
Despite repeated attempts, Prerna Puri, secretary, information technology, and director, information technology, Tanvi Garg were not available for comment.
Sameer Goel, chairman, CII Chandigarh Council and delivery manager, Infosys, who is also member of the EDC committee, said the response in the YE category was good, but we would have to again start the process in the SME segment.
Question mark on process adopted
The four-storey centre, built at a cost of Rs. 18 crore, was inaugurated by the then UT administrator, Gen SF Rodrigues (retd), in November 2009. Of the total expenditure incurred, the administration had invested Rs. 9 crore, while the rest was borne by the union government under the Assistance to States for Developing Export Infrastructure and Allied Activities Scheme.
The scheme was meant for promoting budding entrepreneurs, but to the eligible candidates, bays were offered for allocation on leave and licence basis to the highest bidder. The reserve licence fee for young entrepreneurs was fixed at Rs. 25 per sq feet per month and Rs. 50 per sq per month for small and medium enterprises.
According to senior officials, the system favoured entrepreneurs, who were financially sound, whereas the space should have been allotted to young entrepreneurs with best business plan.
As per the norms, the organisation applying for the space should be working in field of information and technology/information technology enabled services excluding call centres for sales/marketing for a period of one to four years and having investment in plant and machinery between Rs. 10 lakh and Rs. 5 crore.
Officials stressed that the space should be allotted on the pattern of Punjab Infotech, where all applicants were processed in the governing council meeting and the entrepreneurs with best proposals were given space.
The process of allocation of space in EDC has been marred by delays and alleged red tapism. Earlier, the administration had initiated the process of allocating space in the centre twice, but on both the occasions failed to do so.
In 2009, for allotment of space, the authorities in association with TiE had organised "Business Plan Competition". The shortlisted applicants were invited, but they were not allotted the promised space. Similarly, in 2011, applications were again invited, but the process was called off midway.